Oedipus Trilogy - by Sophocles
Translation by F. Storr, BA Formerly Scholar
of Trinity College, Cambridge From the Loeb
Library Edition Originally published by Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, MA and William
Heinemann Ltd, London First published in
Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, the late king
of Thebes, in defiance of Creon who rules
in his stead, resolves to bury her brother
Polyneices, slain in his attack on Thebes.
She is caught in the act by Creon's watchmen
and brought before the king. She justifies
her action, asserting that she was bound
to obey the eternal laws of right and wrong
in spite of any human ordinance. Creon, unrelenting,
condemns her to be immured in a rock-hewn
chamber. His son Haemon, to whom Antigone
is betrothed, pleads in vain for her life
and threatens to die with her. Warned by
the seer Teiresias Creon repents him and
hurries to release Antigone from her rocky
prison. But he is too late: he finds lying
side by side Antigone who had hanged herself
and Haemon who also has perished by his own
hand. Returning to the palace he sees within
the dead body of his queen who on learning
of her son's death has stabbed herself to
ANTIGONE and ISMENE - daughters of Oedipus
and sisters of Polyneices
CREON, King of Thebes.
HAEMON, Son of Creon, betrothed to Antigone.
EURYDICE, wife of Creon.
TEIRESIAS, the prophet.
CHORUS, of Theban elders.
A SECOND MESSENGER
ANTIGONE and ISMENE before the Palace gates.
ANTIGONE Ismene, sister of my blood and heart,
See'st thou how Zeus would in our lives fulfill
The weird of Oedipus, a world of woes! For
what of pain, affliction, outrage, shame,
Is lacking in our fortunes, thine and mine?
And now this proclamation of today Made by
our Captain-General to the State, What can
its purport be? Didst hear and heed, Or art
thou deaf when friends are banned as foes?
ISMENE To me, Antigone, no word of friends
Has come, or glad or grievous, since we twain
Were reft of our two brethren in one day
By double fratricide; and since i' the night
Our Argive leaguers fled, no later news Has
reached me, to inspirit or deject.
ANTIGONE I know 'twas so, and therefore summoned
thee Beyond the gates to breathe it in thine
ISMENE What is it? Some dark secret stirs
ANTIGONE What but the thought of our two
brothers dead, The one by Creon graced with
funeral rites, The other disappointed? Eteocles
He hath consigned to earth (as fame reports)
With obsequies that use and wont ordain,
So gracing him among the dead below. But
Polyneices, a dishonored corse, (So by report
the royal edict runs) No man may bury him
or make lament-- Must leave him tombless
and unwept, a feast For kites to scent afar
and swoop upon. Such is the edict (if report
speak true) Of Creon, our most noble Creon,
aimed At thee and me, aye me too; and anon
He will be here to promulgate, for such As
have not heard, his mandate; 'tis in sooth
No passing humor, for the edict says Whoe'er
transgresses shall be stoned to death. So
stands it with us; now 'tis thine to show
If thou art worthy of thy blood or base.
ISMENE But how, my rash, fond sister, in
such case Can I do anything to make or mar?
ANTIGONE Say, wilt thou aid me and abet?
ISMENE In what bold venture? What is in thy
ANTIGONE Lend me a hand to bear the corpse
ISMENE What, bury him despite the interdict?
ANTIGONE My brother, and, though thou deny
him, thine No man shall say that I betrayed
ISMENE Wilt thou persist, though Creon has
ANTIGONE What right has he to keep me from
ISMENE Bethink thee, sister, of our father's
fate, Abhorred, dishonored, self-convinced
of sin, Blinded, himself his executioner.
Think of his mother-wife (ill sorted names)
Done by a noose herself had twined to death
And last, our hapless brethren in one day,
Both in a mutual destiny involved, Self-slaughtered,
both the slayer and the slain. Bethink thee,
sister, we are left alone; Shall we not perish
wretchedest of all, If in defiance of the
law we cross A monarch's will?--weak women,
think of that, Not framed by nature to contend
with men. Remember this too that the stronger
rules; We must obey his orders, these or
worse. Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat
The dead to pardon. I perforce obey The powers
that be. 'Tis foolishness, I ween, To overstep
in aught the golden mean.
ANTIGONE I urge no more; nay, wert thou willing
still, I would not welcome such a fellowship.
Go thine own way; myself will bury him. How
sweet to die in such employ, to rest,-- Sister
and brother linked in love's embrace-- A
sinless sinner, banned awhile on earth, But
by the dead commended; and with them I shall
abide for ever. As for thee, Scorn, if thou
wilt, the eternal laws of Heaven.
ISMENE I scorn them not, but to defy the
State Or break her ordinance I have no skill.
ANTIGONE A specious pretext. I will go alone
To lap my dearest brother in the grave.
ISMENE My poor, fond sister, how I fear for
ANTIGONE O waste no fears on me; look to
ISMENE At least let no man know of thine
intent, But keep it close and secret, as
ANTIGONE O tell it, sister; I shall hate
thee more If thou proclaim it not to all
ISMENE Thou hast a fiery soul for numbing
ANTIGONE I pleasure those whom I would liefest
ISMENE If thou succeed; but thou art doomed
ANTIGONE When strength shall fail me, yes,
but not before.
ISMENE But, if the venture's hopeless, why
ANTIGONE Sister, forbear, or I shall hate
thee soon, And the dead man will hate thee
too, with cause. Say I am mad and give my
madness rein To wreck itself; the worst that
can befall Is but to die an honorable death.
ISMENE Have thine own way then; 'tis a mad
endeavor, Yet to thy lovers thou art dear
as ever. [Exeunt]
(Str. 1) Sunbeam, of all that ever dawn upon
Our seven-gated Thebes the brightest ray,
O eye of golden day,
How fair thy light o'er Dirce's fountain
shone, Speeding upon their headlong homeward
course, Far quicker than they came, the Argive
Putting to flight
The argent shields, the host with scutcheons
white. Against our land the proud invader
came To vindicate fell Polyneices' claim.
Like to an eagle swooping low, On pinions
white as new fall'n snow.
With clanging scream, a horsetail plume his
crest, The aspiring lord of Argos onward
(Ant. 1) Hovering around our city walls he
waits, His spearmen raven at our seven gates.
But ere a torch our crown of towers could
burn, Ere they had tasted of our blood, they
turn Forced by the Dragon; in their rear
The din of Ares panic-struck they hear. For
Zeus who hates the braggart's boast Beheld
that gold-bespangled host; As at the goal
the paean they upraise, He struck them with
his forked lightning blaze.
(Str. 2) To earthy from earth rebounding,
down he crashed;
The fire-brand from his impious hand was
dashed, As like a Bacchic reveler on he came,
Outbreathing hate and flame, And tottered.
Elsewhere in the field, Here, there, great
Area like a war-horse wheeled;
Beneath his car down thrust Our foemen bit
Seven captains at our seven gates Thundered;
for each a champion waits, Each left behind
his armor bright, Trophy for Zeus who turns
the fight; Save two alone, that ill-starred
pair One mother to one father bare, Who lance
in rest, one 'gainst the other Drave, and
both perished, brother slain by brother.
(Ant. 2) Now Victory to Thebes returns again
And smiles upon her chariot-circled plain.
Now let feast and festal should Memories
of war blot out. Let us to the temples throng,
Dance and sing the live night long. God of
Thebes, lead thou the round. Bacchus, shaker
of the ground! Let us end our revels here;
Lo! Creon our new lord draws near, Crowned
by this strange chance, our king. What, I
marvel, pondering? Why this summons? Wherefore
call Us, his elders, one and all, Bidding
us with him debate, On some grave concern
CREON Elders, the gods have righted one again
Our storm-tossed ship of state, now safe
in port. But you by special summons I convened
As my most trusted councilors; first, because
I knew you loyal to Laius of old; Again,
when Oedipus restored our State, Both while
he ruled and when his rule was o'er, Ye still
were constant to the royal line. Now that
his two sons perished in one day, Brother
by brother murderously slain, By right of
kinship to the Princes dead, I claim and
hold the throne and sovereignty. Yet 'tis
no easy matter to discern The temper of a
man, his mind and will, Till he be proved
by exercise of power; And in my case, if
one who reigns supreme Swerve from the highest
policy, tongue-tied By fear of consequence,
that man I hold, And ever held, the basest
of the base. And I contemn the man who sets
his friend Before his country. For myself,
I call To witness Zeus, whose eyes are everywhere,
If I perceive some mischievous design To
sap the State, I will not hold my tongue;
Nor would I reckon as my private friend A
public foe, well knowing that the State Is
the good ship that holds our fortunes all:
Farewell to friendship, if she suffers wreck.
Such is the policy by which I seek To serve
the Commons and conformably I have proclaimed
an edict as concerns The sons of Oedipus;
Eteocles Who in his country's battle fought
and fell, The foremost champion--duly bury
him With all observances and ceremonies That
are the guerdon of the heroic dead. But for
the miscreant exile who returned Minded in
flames and ashes to blot out His father's
city and his father's gods, And glut his
vengeance with his kinsmen's blood, Or drag
them captive at his chariot wheels-- For
Polyneices 'tis ordained that none Shall
give him burial or make mourn for him, But
leave his corpse unburied, to be meat For
dogs and carrion crows, a ghastly sight.
So am I purposed; never by my will Shall
miscreants take precedence of true men, But
all good patriots, alive or dead, Shall be
by me preferred and honored.
CHORUS Son of Menoeceus, thus thou will'st
to deal With him who loathed and him who
loved our State. Thy word is law; thou canst
dispose of us The living, as thou will'st,
as of the dead.
CREON See then ye execute what I ordain.
CHORUS On younger shoulders lay this grievous
CREON Fear not, I've posted guards to watch
CHORUS What further duty would'st thou lay
CREON Not to connive at disobedience.
CHORUS No man is mad enough to court his
CREON The penalty is death: yet hope of gain
Hath lured men to their ruin oftentimes.
GUARD My lord, I will not make pretense to
pant And puff as some light-footed messenger.
In sooth my soul beneath its pack of thought
Made many a halt and turned and turned again;
For conscience plied her spur and curb by
turns. "Why hurry headlong to thy fate,
poor fool?" She whispered. Then again,
"If Creon learn This from another, thou
wilt rue it worse." Thus leisurely I
hastened on my road; Much thought extends
a furlong to a league. But in the end the
forward voice prevailed, To face thee. I
will speak though I say nothing. For plucking
courage from despair methought, 'Let the
worst hap, thou canst but meet thy fate.'
CREON What is thy news? Why this despondency?
GUARD Let me premise a word about myself?
I neither did the deed nor saw it done, Nor
were it just that I should come to harm.
CREON Thou art good at parry, and canst fence
about Some matter of grave import, as is
GUARD The bearer of dread tidings needs must
CREON Then, sirrah, shoot thy bolt and get
GUARD Well, it must out; the corpse is buried;
someone E'en now besprinkled it with thirsty
dust, Performed the proper ritual--and was
CREON What say'st thou? Who hath dared to
do this thing?
GUARD I cannot tell, for there was ne'er
a trace Of pick or mattock--hard unbroken
ground, Without a scratch or rut of chariot
wheels, No sign that human hands had been
at work. When the first sentry of the morning
watch Gave the alarm, we all were terror-stricken.
The corpse had vanished, not interred in
earth, But strewn with dust, as if by one
who sought To avert the curse that haunts
the unburied dead: Of hound or ravening jackal,
not a sign. Thereat arose an angry war of
words; Guard railed at guard and blows were
like to end it, For none was there to part
us, each in turn Suspected, but the guilt
brought home to none, From lack of evidence.
We challenged each The ordeal, or to handle
red-hot iron, Or pass through fire, affirming
on our oath Our innocence--we neither did
the deed Ourselves, nor know who did or compassed
it. Our quest was at a standstill, when one
spake And bowed us all to earth like quivering
reeds, For there was no gainsaying him nor
way To escape perdition: Ye are bound to
tell _The_King, ye cannot hide it; so he
spake. And he convinced us all; so lots were
cast, And I, unlucky scapegoat, drew the
prize. So here I am unwilling and withal
Unwelcome; no man cares to hear ill news.
CHORUS I had misgivings from the first, my
liege, Of something more than natural at
CREON O cease, you vex me with your babblement;
I am like to think you dote in your old age.
Is it not arrant folly to pretend That gods
would have a thought for this dead man? Did
they forsooth award him special grace, And
as some benefactor bury him, Who came to
fire their hallowed sanctuaries, To sack
their shrines, to desolate their land, And
scout their ordinances? Or perchance The
gods bestow their favors on the bad. No!
no! I have long noted malcontents Who wagged
their heads, and kicked against the yoke,
Misliking these my orders, and my rule. 'Tis
they, I warrant, who suborned my guards By
bribes. Of evils current upon earth The worst
is money. Money 'tis that sacks Cities, and
drives men forth from hearth and home; Warps
and seduces native innocence, And breeds
a habit of dishonesty. But they who sold
themselves shall find their greed Out-shot
the mark, and rue it soon or late. Yea, as
I still revere the dread of Zeus, By Zeus
I swear, except ye find and bring Before
my presence here the very man Who carried
out this lawless burial, Death for your punishment
shall not suffice. Hanged on a cross, alive
ye first shall make Confession of this outrage.
This will teach you What practices are like
to serve your turn. There are some villainies
that bring no gain. For by dishonesty the
few may thrive, The many come to ruin and
GUARD May I not speak, or must I turn and
go Without a word?--
Begone! canst thou not see
That e'en this question irks me?
Where, my lord?
Is it thy ears that suffer, or thy heart?
CREON Why seek to probe and find the seat
GUARD I gall thine ears--this miscreant thy
CREON What an inveterate babbler! get thee
GUARD Babbler perchance, but innocent of
CREON Twice guilty, having sold thy soul
GUARD Alas! how sad when reasoners reason
CREON Go, quibble with thy reason. If thou
fail'st To find these malefactors, thou shalt
own The wages of ill-gotten gains is death.
GUARD I pray he may be found. But caught
or not (And fortune must determine that)
thou never Shalt see me here returning; that
is sure. For past all hope or thought I have
escaped, And for my safety owe the gods much
(Str. 1) Many wonders there be, but naught
more wondrous than man; Over the surging
sea, with a whitening south wind wan, Through
the foam of the firth, man makes his perilous
way; And the eldest of deities Earth that
knows not toil nor decay Ever he furrows
and scores, as his team, year in year out,
With breed of the yoked horse, the ploughshare
(Ant. 1) The light-witted birds of the air,
the beasts of the weald and the wood He traps
with his woven snare, and the brood of the
briny flood. Master of cunning he: the savage
bull, and the hart Who roams the mountain
free, are tamed by his infinite art; And
the shaggy rough-maned steed is broken to
bear the bit.
(Str. 2) Speech and the wind-swift speed
of counsel and civic wit, He hath learnt
for himself all these; and the arrowy rain
to fly And the nipping airs that freeze,
'neath the open winter sky. He hath provision
for all: fell plague he hath learnt to endure;
Safe whate'er may befall: yet for death he
hath found no cure.
(Ant. 2) Passing the wildest flight thought
are the cunning and skill, That guide man
now to the light, but now to counsels of
ill. If he honors the laws of the land, and
reveres the Gods of the State Proudly his
city shall stand; but a cityless outcast
I rate Whoso bold in his pride from the path
of right doth depart; Ne'er may I sit by
his side, or share the thoughts of his heart.
What strange vision meets my eyes, Fills
me with a wild surprise? Sure I know her,
sure 'tis she, The maid Antigone. Hapless
child of hapless sire, Didst thou recklessly
conspire, Madly brave the King's decree?
Therefore are they haling thee?
[Enter GUARD bringing ANTIGONE]
GUARD Here is the culprit taken in the act
Of giving burial. But where's the King?
CHORUS There from the palace he returns in
time. [Enter CREON]
CREON Why is my presence timely? What has
GUARD No man, my lord, should make a vow,
for if He ever swears he will not do a thing,
His afterthoughts belie his first resolve.
When from the hail-storm of thy threats I
fled I sware thou wouldst not see me here
again; But the wild rapture of a glad surprise
Intoxicates, and so I'm here forsworn. And
here's my prisoner, caught in the very act,
Decking the grave. No lottery this time;
This prize is mine by right of treasure-trove.
So take her, judge her, rack her, if thou
wilt. She's thine, my liege; but I may rightly
claim Hence to depart well quit of all these
CREON Say, how didst thou arrest the maid,
GUARD Burying the man. There's nothing more
CREON Hast thou thy wits? Or know'st thou
what thou say'st?
GUARD I saw this woman burying the corpse
Against thy orders. Is that clear and plain?
CREON But how was she surprised and caught
in the act?
GUARD It happened thus. No sooner had we
come, Driven from thy presence by those awful
threats, Than straight we swept away all
trace of dust, And bared the clammy body.
Then we sat High on the ridge to windward
of the stench, While each man kept he fellow
alert and rated Roundly the sluggard if he
chanced to nap. So all night long we watched,
until the sun Stood high in heaven, and his
blazing beams Smote us. A sudden whirlwind
then upraised A cloud of dust that blotted
out the sky, And swept the plain, and stripped
the woodlands bare, And shook the firmament.
We closed our eyes And waited till the heaven-sent
plague should pass. At last it ceased, and
lo! there stood this maid. A piercing cry
she uttered, sad and shrill, As when the
mother bird beholds her nest Robbed of its
nestlings; even so the maid Wailed as she
saw the body stripped and bare, And cursed
the ruffians who had done this deed. Anon
she gathered handfuls of dry dust, Then,
holding high a well-wrought brazen urn, Thrice
on the dead she poured a lustral stream.
We at the sight swooped down on her and seized
Our quarry. Undismayed she stood, and when
We taxed her with the former crime and this,
She disowned nothing. I was glad--and grieved;
For 'tis most sweet to 'scape oneself scot-free,
And yet to bring disaster to a friend Is
grievous. Take it all in all, I deem A man's
first duty is to serve himself.
CREON Speak, girl, with head bent low and
downcast eyes, Does thou plead guilty or
deny the deed?
ANTIGONE Guilty. I did it, I deny it not.
CREON (to GUARD) Sirrah, begone whither thou
wilt, and thank Thy luck that thou hast 'scaped
a heavy charge. (To ANTIGONE) Now answer
this plain question, yes or no, Wast thou
acquainted with the interdict?
ANTIGONE I knew, all knew; how should I fail
CREON And yet wert bold enough to break the
ANTIGONE Yea, for these laws were not ordained
of Zeus, And she who sits enthroned with
gods below, Justice, enacted not these human
laws. Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal
man, Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven. They
were not born today nor yesterday; They die
not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal's frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke The
wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E'en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if
death Is thereby hastened, I shall count
it gain. For death is gain to him whose life,
like mine, Is full of misery. Thus my lot
appears Not sad, but blissful; for had I
endured To leave my mother's son unburied
there, I should have grieved with reason,
but not now. And if in this thou judgest
me a fool, Methinks the judge of folly's
CHORUS A stubborn daughter of a stubborn
sire, This ill-starred maiden kicks against
CREON Well, let her know the stubbornest
of wills Are soonest bended, as the hardest
iron, O'er-heated in the fire to brittleness,
Flies soonest into fragments, shivered through.
A snaffle curbs the fieriest steed, and he
Who in subjection lives must needs be meek.
But this proud girl, in insolence well-schooled,
First overstepped the established law, and
then-- A second and worse act of insolence--
She boasts and glories in her wickedness.
Now if she thus can flout authority Unpunished,
I am woman, she the man. But though she be
my sister's child or nearer Of kin than all
who worship at my hearth, Nor she nor yet
her sister shall escape The utmost penalty,
for both I hold, As arch-conspirators, of
equal guilt. Bring forth the older; even
now I saw her Within the palace, frenzied
and distraught. The workings of the mind
discover oft Dark deeds in darkness schemed,
before the act. More hateful still the miscreant
who seeks When caught, to make a virtue of
ANTIGONE Would'st thou do more than slay
CREON Not I, thy life is mine, and that's
ANTIGONE Why dally then? To me no word of
thine Is pleasant: God forbid it e'er should
please; Nor am I more acceptable to thee.
And yet how otherwise had I achieved A name
so glorious as by burying A brother? so my
townsmen all would say, Where they not gagged
by terror, Manifold A king's prerogatives,
and not the least That all his acts and all
his words are law.
CREON Of all these Thebans none so deems
ANTIGONE These think as I, but bate their
breath to thee.
CREON Hast thou no shame to differ from all
ANTIGONE To reverence kith and kin can bring
CREON Was his dead foeman not thy kinsman
ANTIGONE One mother bare them and the self-same
CREON Why cast a slur on one by honoring
ANTIGONE The dead man will not bear thee
out in this.
CREON Surely, if good and evil fare alive.
ANTIGONE The slain man was no villain but
CREON The patriot perished by the outlaw's
ANTIGONE Nathless the realms below these
CREON Not that the base should fare as do
ANTIGONE Who knows if this world's crimes
are virtues there?
CREON Not even death can make a foe a friend.
ANTIGONE My nature is for mutual love, not
CREON Die then, and love the dead if thou
must; No woman shall be the master while
I live. [Enter ISMENE]
Lo from out the palace gate, Weeping o'er
her sister's fate, Comes Ismene; see her
brow, Once serene, beclouded now, See her
beauteous face o'erspread With a flush of
CREON Woman, who like a viper unperceived
Didst harbor in my house and drain my blood,
Two plagues I nurtured blindly, so it proved,
To sap my throne. Say, didst thou too abet
This crime, or dost abjure all privity?
ISMENE I did the deed, if she will have it
so, And with my sister claim to share the
ANTIGONE That were unjust. Thou would'st
not act with me At first, and I refused thy
ISMENE But now thy bark is stranded, I am
bold To claim my share as partner in the
ANTIGONE Who did the deed the under-world
knows well: A friend in word is never friend
ISMENE O sister, scorn me not, let me but
share Thy work of piety, and with thee die.
ANTIGONE Claim not a work in which thou hadst
no hand; One death sufficeth. Wherefore should'st
ISMENE What would life profit me bereft of
ANTIGONE Ask Creon, he's thy kinsman and
ISMENE Why taunt me? Find'st thou pleasure
in these gibes?
ANTIGONE 'Tis a sad mockery, if indeed I
ISMENE O say if I can help thee even now.
ANTIGONE No, save thyself; I grudge not thy
ISMENE Is e'en this boon denied, to share
ANTIGONE Yea, for thou chosed'st life, and
I to die.
ISMENE Thou canst not say that I did not
ANTIGONE Well, some approved thy wisdom,
ISMENE But now we stand convicted, both alike.
ANTIGONE Fear not; thou livest, I died long
ago Then when I gave my life to save the
CREON Both maids, methinks, are crazed. One
suddenly Has lost her wits, the other was
ISMENE Yea, so it falls, sire, when misfortune
comes, The wisest even lose their mother
CREON I' faith thy wit forsook thee when
thou mad'st Thy choice with evil-doers to
ISMENE What life for me without my sister
CREON Say not thy sister here: thy sister's
ISMENE What, wilt thou slay thy own son's
CREON Aye, let him raise him seed from other
ISMENE No new espousal can be like the old.
CREON A plague on trulls who court and woo
ANTIGONE O Haemon, how thy sire dishonors
CREON A plague on thee and thy accursed bride!
CHORUS What, wilt thou rob thine own son
of his bride?
CREON 'Tis death that bars this marriage,
not his sire.
CHORUS So her death-warrant, it would seem,
CREON By you, as first by me; off with them,
guards, And keep them close. Henceforward
let them learn To live as women use, not
roam at large. For e'en the bravest spirits
run away When they perceive death pressing
on life's heels.
(Str. 1) Thrice blest are they who never
tasted pain! If once the curse of Heaven
attaint a race, The infection lingers on
and speeds apace, Age after age, and each
the cup must drain.
So when Etesian blasts from Thrace downpour
Sweep o'er the blackening main and whirl
to land From Ocean's cavernous depths his
ooze and sand, Billow on billow thunders
on the shore.
(Ant. 1) On the Labdacidae I see descending
Woe upon woe; from days of old some god Laid
on the race a malison, and his rod Scourges
each age with sorrows never ending.
The light that dawned upon its last born
son Is vanished, and the bloody axe of Fate
Has felled the goodly tree that blossomed
late. O Oedipus, by reckless pride undone!
(Str. 2) Thy might, O Zeus, what mortal power
can quell? Not sleep that lays all else beneath
its spell, Nor moons that never tier: untouched
Throned in the dazzling light That crowns
Thou reignest King, omnipotent, sublime.
Past, present, and to be, All bow to thy
decree, All that exceeds the mean by Fate
Is punished, Love or Hate.
(Ant. 2) Hope flits about never-wearying
wings; Profit to some, to some light loves
she brings, But no man knoweth how her gifts
may turn, Till 'neath his feet the treacherous
ashes burn. Sure 'twas a sage inspired that
spake this word;
If evil good appear _To_any, Fate is near;
And brief the respite from her flaming sword.
Hither comes in angry mood Haemon, latest
of thy brood; Is it for his bride he's grieved,
Or her marriage-bed deceived, Doth he make
his mourn for thee, Maid forlorn, Antigone?
CREON Soon shall we know, better than seer
can tell. Learning may fixed decree anent
thy bride, Thou mean'st not, son, to rave
against thy sire? Know'st not whate'er we
do is done in love?
HAEMON O father, I am thine, and I will take
Thy wisdom as the helm to steer withal. Therefore
no wedlock shall by me be held More precious
than thy loving goverance.
CREON Well spoken: so right-minded sons should
feel, In all deferring to a father's will.
For 'tis the hope of parents they may rear
A brood of sons submissive, keen to avenge
Their father's wrongs, and count his friends
their own. But who begets unprofitable sons,
He verily breeds trouble for himself, And
for his foes much laughter. Son, be warned
And let no woman fool away thy wits. Ill
fares the husband mated with a shrew, And
her embraces very soon wax cold. For what
can wound so surely to the quick As a false
friend? So spue and cast her off, Bid her
go find a husband with the dead. For since
I caught her openly rebelling, Of all my
subjects the one malcontent, I will not prove
a traitor to the State. She surely dies.
Go, let her, if she will, Appeal to Zeus
the God of Kindred, for If thus I nurse rebellion
in my house, Shall not I foster mutiny without?
For whoso rules his household worthily, Will
prove in civic matters no less wise. But
he who overbears the laws, or thinks To overrule
his rulers, such as one I never will allow.
Whome'er the State Appoints must be obeyed
in everything, But small and great, just
and unjust alike. I warrant such a one in
either case Would shine, as King or subject;
such a man Would in the storm of battle stand
his ground, A comrade leal and true; but
Anarchy-- What evils are not wrought by Anarchy!
She ruins States, and overthrows the home,
She dissipates and routs the embattled host;
While discipline preserves the ordered ranks.
Therefore we must maintain authority And
yield to title to a woman's will. Better,
if needs be, men should cast us out Than
hear it said, a woman proved his match.
CHORUS To me, unless old age have dulled
wits, Thy words appear both reasonable and
HAEMON Father, the gods implant in mortal
men Reason, the choicest gift bestowed by
heaven. 'Tis not for me to say thou errest,
nor Would I arraign thy wisdom, if I could;
And yet wise thoughts may come to other men
And, as thy son, it falls to me to mark The
acts, the words, the comments of the crowd.
The commons stand in terror of thy frown,
And dare not utter aught that might offend,
But I can overhear their muttered plaints,
Know how the people mourn this maiden doomed
For noblest deeds to die the worst of deaths.
When her own brother slain in battle lay
Unsepulchered, she suffered not his corse
To lie for carrion birds and dogs to maul:
Should not her name (they cry) be writ in
gold? Such the low murmurings that reach
my ear. O father, nothing is by me more prized
Than thy well-being, for what higher good
Can children covet than their sire's fair
fame, As fathers too take pride in glorious
sons? Therefore, my father, cling not to
one mood, And deemed not thou art right,
all others wrong. For whoso thinks that wisdom
dwells with him, That he alone can speak
or think aright, Such oracles are empty breath
when tried. The wisest man will let himself
be swayed By others' wisdom and relax in
time. See how the trees beside a stream in
flood Save, if they yield to force, each
spray unharmed, But by resisting perish root
and branch. The mariner who keeps his mainsheet
taut, And will not slacken in the gale, is
like To sail with thwarts reversed, keel
uppermost. Relent then and repent thee of
thy wrath; For, if one young in years may
claim some sense, I'll say 'tis best of all
to be endowed With absolute wisdom; but,
if that's denied, (And nature takes not readily
that ply) Next wise is he who lists to sage
CHORUS If he says aught in season, heed him,
King. (To HAEMON) Heed thou thy sire too;
both have spoken well.
CREON What, would you have us at our age
be schooled, Lessoned in prudence by a beardless
HAEMON I plead for justice, father, nothing
more. Weigh me upon my merit, not my years.
CREON Strange merit this to sanction lawlessness!
HAEMON For evil-doers I would urge no plea.
CREON Is not this maid an arrant law-breaker?
HAEMON The Theban commons with one voice
CREON What, shall the mob dictate my policy?
HAEMON 'Tis thou, methinks, who speakest
like a boy.
CREON Am I to rule for others, or myself?
HAEMON A State for one man is no State at
CREON The State is his who rules it, so 'tis
HAEMON As monarch of a desert thou wouldst
CREON This boy, methinks, maintains the woman's
HAEMON If thou be'st woman, yes. My thought's
CREON O reprobate, would'st wrangle with
HAEMON Because I see thee wrongfully perverse.
CREON And am I wrong, if I maintain my rights?
HAEMON Talk not of rights; thou spurn'st
the due of Heaven
CREON O heart corrupt, a woman's minion thou!
HAEMON Slave to dishonor thou wilt never
CREON Thy speech at least was all a plea
HAEMON And thee and me, and for the gods
CREON Living the maid shall never be thy
HAEMON So she shall die, but one will die
CREON Hast come to such a pass as threaten
HAEMON What threat is this, vain counsels
CREON Vain fool to instruct thy betters;
thou shall rue it.
HAEMON Wert not my father, I had said thou
CREON Play not the spaniel, thou a woman's
HAEMON When thou dost speak, must no man
CREON This passes bounds. By heaven, thou
shalt not rate And jeer and flout me with
impunity. Off with the hateful thing that
she may die At once, beside her bridegroom,
in his sight.
HAEMON Think not that in my sight the maid
shall die, Or by my side; never shalt thou
again Behold my face hereafter. Go, consort
With friends who like a madman for their
mate. [Exit HAEMON]
CHORUS Thy son has gone, my liege, in angry
haste. Fell is the wrath of youth beneath
CREON Let him go vent his fury like a fiend:
These sisters twain he shall not save from
CHORUS Surely, thou meanest not to slay them
CREON I stand corrected; only her who touched
And what death is she to die?
CREON She shall be taken to some desert place
By man untrod, and in a rock-hewn cave, With
food no more than to avoid the taint That
homicide might bring on all the State, Buried
alive. There let her call in aid The King
of Death, the one god she reveres, Or learn
too late a lesson learnt at last: 'Tis labor
lost, to reverence the dead.
(Str.) Love resistless in fight, all yield
at a glance of thine eye, Love who pillowed
all night on a maiden's cheek dost lie, Over
the upland holds. Shall mortals not yield
(Ant). Mad are thy subjects all, and even
the wisest heart Straight to folly will fall,
at a touch of thy poisoned dart. Thou didst
kindle the strife, this feud of kinsman with
kin, By the eyes of a winsome wife, and the
yearning her heart to win. For as her consort
still, enthroned with Justice above, Thou
bendest man to thy will, O all invincible
Lo I myself am borne aside, From Justice,
as I view this bride. (O sight an eye in
tears to drown) Antigone, so young, so fair,
Thus hurried down Death's bower with the
dead to share.
(Str. 1) Friends, countrymen, my last farewell
My journey's done.
One last fond, lingering, longing look I
At the bright sun.
For Death who puts to sleep both young and
Hales my young life,
And beckons me to Acheron's dark fold,
An unwed wife.
No youths have sung the marriage song for
My bridal bed
No maids have strewn with flowers from the
'Tis Death I wed.
But bethink thee, thou art sped, Great and
glorious, to the dead. Thou the sword's edge
hast not tasted, No disease thy frame hath
wasted. Freely thou alone shalt go Living
to the dead below.
Nay, but the piteous tale I've heard men
tell Of Tantalus' doomed child, Chained upon
Siphylus' high rocky fell,
That clung like ivy wild, Drenched by the
pelting rain and whirling snow,
Left there to pine, While on her frozen breast
the tears aye flow--
Her fate is mine.
She was sprung of gods, divine, Mortals we
of mortal line. Like renown with gods to
gain Recompenses all thy pain. Take this
solace to thy tomb Hers in life and death
(Str. 2) Alack, alack! Ye mock me. Is it
Thus to insult me living, to my face? Cease,
by our country's altars I entreat,
Ye lordly rulers of a lordly race. O fount
of Dirce, wood-embowered plain
Where Theban chariots to victory speed,
Mark ye the cruel laws that now have wrought
my bane, The friends who show no pity in
my need! Was ever fate like mine? O monstrous
Within a rock-built prison sepulchered, To
fade and wither in a living tomb,
And alien midst the living and the dead.
In thy boldness over-rash Madly thou thy
foot didst dash 'Gainst high Justice' altar
stair. Thou a father's guild dost bear.
(Ant. 2) At this thou touchest my most poignant
My ill-starred father's piteous disgrace,
The taint of blood, the hereditary stain,
That clings to all of Labdacus' famed race.
Woe worth the monstrous marriage-bed where
A mother with the son her womb had borne,
Therein I was conceived, woe worth the day,
Fruit of incestuous sheets, a maid forlorn,
And now I pass, accursed and unwed,
To meet them as an alien there below; And
thee, O brother, in marriage ill-bestead,
'Twas thy dead hand that dealt me this death-blow.
Religion has her chains, 'tis true, Let rite
be paid when rites are due. Yet is it ill
to disobey The powers who hold by might the
sway. Thou hast withstood authority, A self-willed
rebel, thou must die.
ANTIGONE Unwept, unwed, unfriended, hence
No longer may I see the day's bright eye;
Not one friend left to share my bitter woe,
And o'er my ashes heave one passing sigh.
CREON If wail and lamentation aught availed
To stave off death, I trow they'd never end.
Away with her, and having walled her up In
a rock-vaulted tomb, as I ordained, Leave
her alone at liberty to die, Or, if she choose,
to live in solitude, The tomb her dwelling.
We in either case Are guiltless as concerns
this maiden's blood, Only on earth no lodging
shall she find.
ANTIGONE O grave, O bridal bower, O prison
house Hewn from the rock, my everlasting
home, Whither I go to join the mighty host
Of kinsfolk, Persephassa's guests long dead,
The last of all, of all more miserable, I
pass, my destined span of years cut short.
And yet good hope is mine that I shall find
A welcome from my sire, a welcome too, From
thee, my mother, and my brother dear; From
with these hands, I laved and decked your
limbs In death, and poured libations on your
grave. And last, my Polyneices, unto thee
I paid due rites, and this my recompense!
Yet am I justified in wisdom's eyes. For
even had it been some child of mine, Or husband
mouldering in death's decay, I had not wrought
this deed despite the State. What is the
law I call in aid? 'Tis thus I argue. Had
it been a husband dead I might have wed another,
and have borne Another child, to take the
dead child's place. But, now my sire and
mother both are dead, No second brother can
be born for me. Thus by the law of conscience
I was led To honor thee, dear brother, and
was judged By Creon guilty of a heinous crime.
And now he drags me like a criminal, A bride
unwed, amerced of marriage-song And marriage-bed
and joys of motherhood, By friends deserted
to a living grave. What ordinance of heaven
have I transgressed? Hereafter can I look
to any god For succor, call on any man for
help? Alas, my piety is impious deemed. Well,
if such justice is approved of heaven, I
shall be taught by suffering my sin; But
if the sin is theirs, O may they suffer No
worse ills than the wrongs they do to me.
CHORUS The same ungovernable will Drives
like a gale the maiden still.
CREON Therefore, my guards who let her stay
Shall smart full sore for their delay.
ANTIGONE Ah, woe is me! This word I hear
Brings death most near.
CHORUS I have no comfort. What he saith,
Portends no other thing than death.
ANTIGONE My fatherland, city of Thebes divine,
Ye gods of Thebes whence sprang my line,
Look, puissant lords of Thebes, on me; The
last of all your royal house ye see. Martyred
by men of sin, undone. Such meed my piety
hath won. [Exit ANTIGONE]
(Str. 1) Like to thee that maiden bright,
Danae, in her brass-bound tower,
Once exchanged the glad sunlight
For a cell, her bridal bower.
And yet she sprang of royal line,
My child, like thine, And nursed the seed
By her conceived
Of Zeus descending in a golden shower. Strange
are the ways of Fate, her power Nor wealth,
nor arms withstand, nor tower; Nor brass-prowed
ships, that breast the sea
From Fate can flee.
(Ant. 1) Thus Dryas' child, the rash Edonian
King, For words of high disdain Did Bacchus
to a rocky dungeon bring, To cool the madness
of a fevered brain.
His frenzy passed, He learnt at last
'Twas madness gibes against a god to fling.
For once he fain had quenched the Maenad's
fire; And of the tuneful Nine provoked the
(Str. 2) By the Iron Rocks that guard the
On Bosporus' lone strand,
Where stretcheth Salmydessus' plain
In the wild Thracian land,
There on his borders Ares witnessed
The vengeance by a jealous step-dame ta'en
The gore that trickled from a spindle red,
The sightless orbits of her step-sons twain.
(Ant. 2) Wasting away they mourned their
piteous doom, The blasted issue of their
mother's womb. But she her lineage could
To great Erecththeus' race;
Daughter of Boreas in her sire's vast caves
Reared, where the tempest raves,
Swift as his horses o'er the hills she sped;
A child of gods; yet she, my child, like
That knows not death nor age--she too was
vanquished. [Enter TEIRESIAS and BOY]
TEIRESIAS Princes of Thebes, two wayfarers
as one, Having betwixt us eyes for one, we
are here. The blind man cannot move without
CREON Why tidings, old Teiresias?
I will tell thee;
And when thou hearest thou must heed the
CREON Thus far I ne'er have disobeyed thy
TEIRESIAS So hast thou steered the ship of
CREON I know it, and I gladly own my debt.
TEIRESIAS Bethink thee that thou treadest
once again The razor edge of peril.
What is this?
Thy words inspire a dread presentiment.
TEIRESIAS The divination of my arts shall
tell. Sitting upon my throne of augury, As
is my wont, where every fowl of heaven Find
harborage, upon mine ears was borne A jargon
strange of twitterings, hoots, and screams;
So knew I that each bird at the other tare
With bloody talons, for the whirr of wings
Could signify naught else. Perturbed in soul,
I straight essayed the sacrifice by fire
On blazing altars, but the God of Fire Came
not in flame, and from the thigh bones dripped
And sputtered in the ashes a foul ooze; Gall-bladders
cracked and spurted up: the fat Melted and
fell and left the thigh bones bare. Such
are the signs, taught by this lad, I read--
As I guide others, so the boy guides me--
The frustrate signs of oracles grown dumb.
O King, thy willful temper ails the State,
For all our shrines and altars are profaned
By what has filled the maw of dogs and crows,
The flesh of Oedipus' unburied son. Therefore
the angry gods abominate Our litanies and
our burnt offerings; Therefore no birds trill
out a happy note, Gorged with the carnival
of human gore. O ponder this, my son. To
err is common To all men, but the man who
having erred Hugs not his errors, but repents
and seeks The cure, is not a wastrel nor
unwise. No fool, the saw goes, like the obstinate
fool. Let death disarm thy vengeance. O forbear
To vex the dead. What glory wilt thou win
By slaying twice the slain? I mean thee well;
Counsel's most welcome if I promise gain.
CREON Old man, ye all let fly at me your
shafts Like anchors at a target; yea, ye
set Your soothsayer on me. Peddlers are ye
all And I the merchandise ye buy and sell.
Go to, and make your profit where ye will,
Silver of Sardis change for gold of Ind;
Ye will not purchase this man's burial, Not
though the winged ministers of Zeus Should
bear him in their talons to his throne; Not
e'en in awe of prodigy so dire Would I permit
his burial, for I know No human soilure can
assail the gods; This too I know, Teiresias,
dire's the fall Of craft and cunning when
it tries to gloss Foul treachery with fair
words for filthy gain.
TEIRESIAS Alas! doth any know and lay to
CREON Is this the prelude to some hackneyed
TEIRESIAS How far good counsel is the best
CREON True, as unwisdom is the worst of ills.
TEIRESIAS Thou art infected with that ill
CREON I will not bandy insults with thee,
TEIRESIAS And yet thou say'st my prophesies
CREON Prophets are all a money-getting tribe.
TEIRESIAS And kings are all a lucre-loving
CREON Dost know at whom thou glancest, me
TEIRESIAS Lord of the State and savior, thanks
CREON Skilled prophet art thou, but to wrong
TEIRESIAS Take heed, thou wilt provoke me
to reveal The mystery deep hidden in my breast.
CREON Say on, but see it be not said for
TEIRESIAS Such thou, methinks, till now hast
judged my words.
CREON Be sure thou wilt not traffic on my
TEIRESIAS Know then for sure, the coursers
of the sun Not many times shall run their
race, before Thou shalt have given the fruit
of thine own loins In quittance of thy murder,
life for life; For that thou hast entombed
a living soul, And sent below a denizen of
earth, And wronged the nether gods by leaving
here A corpse unlaved, unwept, unsepulchered.
Herein thou hast no part, nor e'en the gods
In heaven; and thou usurp'st a power not
thine. For this the avenging spirits of Heaven
and Hell Who dog the steps of sin are on
thy trail: What these have suffered thou
shalt suffer too. And now, consider whether
bought by gold I prophesy. For, yet a little
while, And sound of lamentation shall be
heard, Of men and women through thy desolate
halls; And all thy neighbor States are leagues
to avenge Their mangled warriors who have
found a grave I' the maw of wolf or hound,
or winged bird That flying homewards taints
their city's air. These are the shafts, that
like a bowman I Provoked to anger, loosen
at thy breast, Unerring, and their smart
thou shalt not shun. Boy, lead me home, that
he may vent his spleen On younger men, and
learn to curb his tongue With gentler manners
than his present mood. [Exit TEIRESIAS]
CHORUS My liege, that man hath gone, foretelling
woe. And, O believe me, since these grizzled
locks Were like the raven, never have I known
The prophet's warning to the State to fail.
CREON I know it too, and it perplexes me.
To yield is grievous, but the obstinate soul
That fights with Fate, is smitten grievously.
CHORUS Son of Menoeceus, list to good advice.
CHORUS What should I do. Advise me. I will
CHORUS Go, free the maiden from her rocky
cell; And for the unburied outlaw build a
CREON Is that your counsel? You would have
CHORUS Yea, king, this instant. Vengeance
of the gods Is swift to overtake the impenitent.
CREON Ah! what a wrench it is to sacrifice
My heart's resolve; but Fate is ill to fight.
CHORUS Go, trust not others. Do it quick
CREON I go hot-foot. Bestir ye one and all,
My henchmen! Get ye axes! Speed away To yonder
eminence! I too will go, For all my resolution
this way sways. 'Twas I that bound, I too
will set her free. Almost I am persuaded
it is best To keep through life the law ordained
of old. [Exit CREON]
(Str. 1) Thou by many names adored,
Child of Zeus the God of thunder, Of a Theban
bride the wonder,
Fair Italia's guardian lord;
In the deep-embosomed glades
Of the Eleusinian Queen
Haunt of revelers, men and maids,
Dionysus, thou art seen.
Where Ismenus rolls his waters,
Where the Dragon's teeth were sown,
Where the Bacchanals thy daughters
Round thee roam, There thy home;
Thebes, O Bacchus, is thine own.
(Ant. 1) Thee on the two-crested rock
Lurid-flaming torches see;
Where Corisian maidens flock,
Thee the springs of Castaly.
By Nysa's bastion ivy-clad, By shores with
clustered vineyards glad, There to thee the
hymn rings out, And through our streets we
All hall to thee Evoe, Evoe!
(Str. 2) Oh, as thou lov'st this city best
of all, To thee, and to thy Mother levin-stricken,
In our dire need we call; Thou see'st with
what a plague our townsfolk sicken.
Thy ready help we crave,
Whether adown Parnassian heights descending,
Or o'er the roaring straits thy swift was
Save us, O save!
(Ant. 2) Brightest of all the orbs that breathe
Authentic son of Zeus, immortal king, Leader
of all the voices of the night, Come, and
thy train of Thyiads with thee bring,
Thy maddened rout
Who dance before thee all night long, and
Thy handmaids we, Evoe, Evoe!
MESSENGER Attend all ye who dwell beside
the halls Of Cadmus and Amphion. No man's
life As of one tenor would I praise or blame,
For Fortune with a constant ebb and rise
Casts down and raises high and low alike,
And none can read a mortal's horoscope. Take
Creon; he, methought, if any man, Was enviable.
He had saved this land Of Cadmus from our
enemies and attained A monarch's powers and
ruled the state supreme, While a right noble
issue crowned his bliss. Now all is gone
and wasted, for a life Without life's joys
I count a living death. You'll tell me he
has ample store of wealth, The pomp and circumstance
of kings; but if These give no pleasure,
all the rest I count The shadow of a shade,
nor would I weigh His wealth and power 'gainst
a dram of joy.
CHORUS What fresh woes bring'st thou to the
MESSENGER Both dead, and they who live deserve
CHORUS Who is the slayer, who the victim?
MESSENGER Haemon; his blood shed by no stranger
CHORUS What mean ye? by his father's or his
MESSENGER His own; in anger for his father's
CHORUS O prophet, what thou spakest comes
MESSENGER So stands the case; now 'tis for
you to act.
CHORUS Lo! from the palace gates I see approaching
Creon's unhappy wife, Eurydice. Comes she
by chance or learning her son's fate? [Enter
EURYDICE Ye men of Thebes, I overheard your
talk. As I passed out to offer up my prayer
To Pallas, and was drawing back the bar To
open wide the door, upon my ears There broke
a wail that told of household woe Stricken
with terror in my handmaids' arms I fell
and fainted. But repeat your tale To one
not unacquaint with misery.
MESSENGER Dear mistress, I was there and
will relate The perfect truth, omitting not
one word. Why should we gloze and flatter,
to be proved Liars hereafter? Truth is ever
best. Well, in attendance on my liege, your
lord, I crossed the plain to its utmost margin,
where The corse of Polyneices, gnawn and
mauled, Was lying yet. We offered first a
prayer To Pluto and the goddess of cross-ways,
With contrite hearts, to deprecate their
ire. Then laved with lustral waves the mangled
corse, Laid it on fresh-lopped branches,
lit a pyre, And to his memory piled a mighty
mound Of mother earth. Then to the caverned
rock, The bridal chamber of the maid and
Death, We sped, about to enter. But a guard
Heard from that godless shrine a far shrill
wail, And ran back to our lord to tell the
news. But as he nearer drew a hollow sound
Of lamentation to the King was borne. He
groaned and uttered then this bitter plaint:
"Am I a prophet? miserable me! Is this
the saddest path I ever trod? 'Tis my son's
voice that calls me. On press on, My henchmen,
haste with double speed to the tomb Where
rocks down-torn have made a gap, look in
And tell me if in truth I recognize The voice
of Haemon or am heaven-deceived." So
at the bidding of our distraught lord We
looked, and in the craven's vaulted gloom
I saw the maiden lying strangled there, A
noose of linen twined about her neck; And
hard beside her, clasping her cold form,
Her lover lay bewailing his dead bride Death-wedded,
and his father's cruelty. When the King saw
him, with a terrible groan He moved towards
him, crying, "O my son What hast thou
done? What ailed thee? What mischance Has
reft thee of thy reason? O come forth, Come
forth, my son; thy father supplicates."
But the son glared at him with tiger eyes,
Spat in his face, and then, without a word,
Drew his two-hilted sword and smote, but
missed His father flying backwards. Then
the boy, Wroth with himself, poor wretch,
incontinent Fell on his sword and drove it
through his side Home, but yet breathing
clasped in his lax arms The maid, her pallid
cheek incarnadined With his expiring gasps.
So there they lay Two corpses, one in death.
His marriage rites Are consummated in the
halls of Death: A witness that of ills whate'er
befall Mortals' unwisdom is the worst of
all. [Exit EURYDICE]
CHORUS What makest thou of this? The Queen
has gone Without a word importing good or
MESSENGER I marvel too, but entertain good
hope. 'Tis that she shrinks in public to
lament Her son's sad ending, and in privacy
Would with her maidens mourn a private loss.
Trust me, she is discreet and will not err.
CHORUS I know not, but strained silence,
so I deem, Is no less ominous than excessive
MESSENGER Well, let us to the house and solve
our doubts, Whether the tumult of her heart
conceals Some fell design. It may be thou
art right: Unnatural silence signifies no
Lo! the King himself appears. Evidence he
with him bears 'Gainst himself (ah me! I
quake 'Gainst a king such charge to make)
But all must own, The guilt is his and his
Woe for sin of minds perverse, Deadly fraught
with mortal curse. Behold us slain and slayers,
all akin. Woe for my counsel dire, conceived
in sin. Alas, my son, Life scarce begun,
Thou wast undone. The fault was mine, mine
only, O my son!
CHORUS Too late thou seemest to perceive
(Str. 2) By sorrow schooled. Heavy the hand
of God, Thorny and rough the paths my feet
have trod, Humbled my pride, my pleasure
turned to pain; Poor mortals, how we labor
all in vain! [Enter SECOND MESSENGER]
SECOND MESSENGER Sorrows are thine, my lord,
and more to come, One lying at thy feet,
another yet More grievous waits thee, when
thou comest home.
CREON What woe is lacking to my tale of woes?
SECOND MESSENGER Thy wife, the mother of
thy dead son here, Lies stricken by a fresh
(Ant. 1) How bottomless the pit!
Does claim me too, O Death? What is this
word he saith,
This woeful messenger? Say, is it fit To
slay anew a man already slain?
Is Death at work again,
Stroke upon stroke, first son, then mother
CHORUS Look for thyself. She lies for all
(Ant. 2) Alas! another added woe I see. What
more remains to crown my agony? A minute
past I clasped a lifeless son, And now another
victim Death hath won. Unhappy mother, most
SECOND MESSENGER Beside the altar on a keen-edged
sword She fell and closed her eyes in night,
but erst She mourned for Megareus who nobly
died Long since, then for her son; with her
last breath She cursed thee, the slayer of
I shudder with affright
O for a two-edged sword to slay outright
A wretch like me, Made one with misery.
SECOND MESSENGER 'Tis true that thou wert
charged by the dead Queen As author of both
deaths, hers and her son's.
CREON In what wise was her self-destruction
SECOND MESSENGER Hearing the loud lament
above her son With her own hand she stabbed
herself to the heart.
(Str. 4) I am the guilty cause. I did the
deed, Thy murderer. Yea, I guilty plead.
My henchmen, lead me hence, away, away, A
cipher, less than nothing; no delay!
CHORUS Well said, if in disaster aught is
well His past endure demand the speediest
Come, Fate, a friend at need, Come with all
speed! Come, my best friend, And speed my
end! Away, away!
Let me not look upon another day!
CHORUS This for the morrow; to us are present
needs That they whom it concerns must take
CREON I join your prayer that echoes my desire.
CHORUS O pray not, prayers are idle; from
the doom Of fate for mortals refuge is there
(Ant. 4) Away with me, a worthless wretch
who slew Unwitting thee, my son, thy mother
too. Whither to turn I know now; every way
Leads but astray,
And on my head I feel the heavy weight
Of crushing Fate.
CHORUS Of happiness the chiefest part
Is a wise heart:
And to defraud the gods in aught
With peril's fraught.
Swelling words of high-flown might Mightily
the gods do smite. Chastisement for errors
past Wisdom brings to age at last.